Reflections Kerala

Mirroring the making of 'Aranmula kannadi'

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As a little boy, Rajeev Manikandan vividly recalls watching the Aranmula kannadi (mirror) emerge bright and shining from his grandfather’s forge every day. Now 38, Manikandan is one of the few people who know the alchemy behind the hand-made alloy mirror, which, with its GI tag, has made the small town of Aranmula in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district famous.

Manikandan would watch wide-eyed as his grandfather made moulds from clay, forged an alloy and polished it for days until it had the right shine that gave the surface its distinctive mirror-like surface. Manikandan learnt the craft by watching and began working with his father when he was 18. Today, his is one of just five families in Aranmula that are keepers of the secret behind the metallic mirror. He owns Manikanda Handicrafts at an entrance to the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple, one of 24 such units owned by the five families.

Manikandan’s day begins early. After prayers at the temple, he enters his forge by 7 in the morning and works till 4 in the evening. Work is never easy — there is fire, soot and grime. As the demand for the mirror has grown, he has had to ramp up production.

Last year, the floods unleashed misery, inundating the units for four days. The alumni of Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, helped them begin production within a month. Manikandan considers himself lucky to be able to practise the centuries-old craft. He hopes the magic of the golden-hued mirror, with a unique hologram to distinguish it from cheaper imitations, will continue to be forged by the younger generation.

(All images by Thulasi Kakkat.)

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